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Thomas Kinsella (born 4 May 1928) is an Irish poet, translator, editor, and publisher.
Kinsella was born in Inchicore, Dublin. He spent most of his childhood in the Kilmainham/Inchicore area of Dublin. He was educated at the Model School, Inchicore, where classes were taught through the medium of the Irish language, and at the O'Connell Schools in North Richmond Street, Dublin. His father and grandfather both worked in Guinness's Brewery. He entered University College Dublin in 1946, initially to study science. After a few terms in college, he took a post in the Irish civil service and continued his university studies at night, having switched to humanities and arts.
Kinsella's first poems were published in the University College Dublin magazine National Student. His first pamphlet, The Starlit Eye (1952), was published by Liam Miller's Dolmen Press, as was Poems (1956), his first book-length publication. These were followed by Another September (1958), Moralities (1960), Downstream (1962), Wormwood (1966), and the long poem Nightwalker (1967).
Marked as it was by the influence of W. H. Auden and dealing with a primarily urban landscape and with questions of romantic love, Kinsella's early work marked him as distinct from the mainstream of Irish poetry in the 1950s and 1960s, which tended to be dominated by the example of Patrick Kavanagh.
He received the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin in May 2007.
As a professor: The Irish Tradition Programme at Trinity College.
At Miller's suggestion, Kinsella turned his attention to the translation of early Irish texts. He produced versions of Longes Mac Unsnig and The Breastplate of St Patrick in 1954 and of Thirty-Three Triads in 1955. His most significant work in this area was collected in two important volumes. The first of these was The Táin, (Dolmen 1969 and Oxford 1970), a version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge illustrated by Louis le Brocquy.
The second major work of translation was an anthology of Irish poetry An Duanaire: 1600-1900, Poems of the Dispossessed (1981), translated by Kinsella and edited by Seán Ó Tuama. He also edited Austin Clarke's Selected Poems and Collected Poems (both 1974) for Dolmen and The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1986).
In 1965, Kinsella left the civil service to become writer in residence at Southern Illinois University, and in 1970 he became a professor of English at Temple University in Philadelphia. While at Temple, he developed a program for students to study in Ireland called "the Irish Experience".
In 1972, he started Peppercanister Press to publish his own work. The first Peppercanister production was Butcher's Dozen, a satirical response to the Widgery Tribunal into the events of Bloody Sunday. This poem drew on the aisling tradition and specifically on Brian Merriman's Cúirt An Mheán Óiche. Kinsella's interest in the publishing process dates back at least as far as helping set the type for The Starlit Eye 20 years earlier.
In the Peppercanister poems, Kinsella's work ceased to be Audenesque and became more clearly influenced by American modernism, particularly the poetry of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell. In addition, the poetry started to focus more on the individual psyche as seen through the work of Carl Jung. These tendencies first appeared in the poems of Notes from the Land of the Dead (1973) and One (1974).
In the 1980s, books such as Her Vertical Smile (1985) Out of Ireland (1987) and St Catherine's Clock (1987) marked a move away from the personal to the historical. This continued into a sometimes darkly satirical focus on a contemporary landscape through the late 1980s and 1990s in such books as One Fond Embrace (1988), Personal Places (1990), Poems From Centre City (1990) and The Pen Shop (1996). His Collected Poems appeared in 1996 and again in an updated edition in 2001.